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The return of the lady at New York Fashion Week

New York Fashion Week was full of sleek collections inspired by the roaring Forties and glamorous Seventies. Autumn 2011 will be a sophisticated affair, says the Harvey Nichols buying director Averyl Oates


Inspired by the Terrence Malick film Days of Heaven, there was also more than a touch of a modern Laura Ingalls about the Rodarte girl for next season.

A collection of exquisite, long dresses, crocheted, floral embroidered, hand-quilted and some printed with wheat sheafs at the hem. Here, too, were coats, for the first time, high-waisted trousers and jumpsuits that will be on every fashion follower's wish list next season.

Donna Karan

Grace Kelly eat your heart out. So far this season there has been an emphasis on daywear – especially coats – and Donna Karan's show was no exception. This was a modern, elegant and sophisticated yet seductive urban collection full of interesting texture from bouclé mohair and tweed to fur-trimmed sleeves and head-to-toe shearling coats. The silhouette was long and lean and high-waisted, pegged skirts work well with moulded jackets. For evening, it was all-out Oscar glamour with sensual, floor-length dresses, draped jersey, rich lamé, sculpted satins embroidered with beads and iridescent silks.


Chic, easy separates and relaxed, oversized boyfriend jackets with contrast leather sleeves, knitted Puffa jackets and capes all gave this collection a Sixties feel. Here, too, was strong colour: vermilion, orange and fuschia teamed with ochre and beige. The final sequence featured all-black eveningwear: textured shearling coats atop signature little black dresses.

Diane Von Furstenburg

New creative director Yves Mispeleare has injected energy into this famous American brand, while sticking to its inherent DNA. Diane Von Furstenburg knows what her customer wants: opening and closing the show with versions of her iconic wrap dress. The still prevalent Seventies trend, meanwhile, taps into her era perfectly: jumpsuits, sequinned diva dresses and printed pyjamas "like the ones I used to wear to Studio 54!" she cried. Entitled American Legends, after Millicent Rogers, Diane Vreeland (who was also an inspiration for Preen) and Gloria Vanderbilt, this collection is sure to attract new followers.


One of the key trends to have emerged in New York this season is a more ladylike, 1940s silhouette: the pencil skirt is key and Preen's collection showcased it beautifully. Skirts were knee-length and either split at the front or back; trouser suits were also prevalent and embroidery on tops and jumpers was inspired by the Northern California arts and crafts movement. A sophisticated, even regal, collection.

Marc Jacobs

With typically starry onlookers – Fergie from Black Eyed Peas, Karen Elson, Jack White, Sofia Coppola and Whoopi Goldberg – Marc Jacobs eschewed the Seventies influence seen elsewhere and indeed on this designer's own catwalk six months ago now and said he was this time thinking of something more "strict and severe". There were hobble skirts so tight models walked geisha-style and polka dots everywhere: on fabulous wool, wide-legged trousers, beautiful knitwear and peplum jackets. The overall effect? Ladylike and sexy in the extreme.

Victoria Beckham

Victoria Beckham gets more and more confident with each season. This latest collection moved her silhouette on from structured dresses – of which there were still plenty – to include a relaxed, looser outline. She showed coats for the first time, too, which look as though they will become as covetable as her recently launched handbag range.

Theyskens Theory

Olivier Theyskens has definitely put his stamp on Theory. The gothic aesthetic prevalent in his career – and particularly at Rochas – was here albeit in a much more accessible way. Tailoring was strong as always, featuring slouchy jackets that are sure to sell out, long coats and skirts and trousers in all styles, from coloured cords to tweed wide-leg pants. Cable knit jumpers and sweater dresses looked easy to wear. All in all, affordable luxury at its best.

The Row

The Olsen twins' hands-on approach goes a long way. Clothes this season were beautiful and understated – trousers and jackets displayed a strong knowledge of tailoring and dresses were sophisticated. There was more colour than there has been previously and also new this time around were bags, positioned – price-wise – right up there with Céline and Hermès.


Young designer Joseph Altuzarra's collection nodded to the early work of John Galliano: dresses with frayed edges, bias-cut silk slips worn with luxurious parkas and slouchy cardigans. This was looser, more sensual and feminine than previous collections – and it worked. Coats were out in force – always a reliable autumn trend – and shoes, tweed trenches, bomber jackets and capes all nodded to a Nineties inspiration.

Alexander Wang

High-tech futuristic rocker Alexander Wang showed a collection that reflected the snow and cold here in New York City. There was fur and athletic scuba-wear, styled in the cool way this designer is known for. Asymmetric, knitted cape dresses worn with goggles opened a varied show; sheer blouses followed, with biker zip-pants contrasted against delicate chiffon tuxedo shirts, all showing off his excellent understanding of how the modern woman dresses.

Marc by Marc Jacobs

Marc by Marc Jacobs is always an exemplary exercise in styling. With this in mind, models walked out in sunglasses and hats that reflected both the Forties and Seventies trends prevalent just now. Trouser suits came in cord and velvet and pretty blouses were matched with long skirts. The show had a modern, vintage feel to it and these pieces stand up just as well alone as they do on the catwalk.

Alice & Olivia

Showing in a glamorous suite in the Plaza Hotel, Stacey Bendet (the name behind Alice & Olivia) showed a collection based on burlesque and flappers. Shiny, sequinned dresses will have her followers including more than a few young starlets queuing up. The designer also introduced more separates, including high-waisted trousers (an autumn trend), and chic knitwear.